St. Nicholas

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Nicaea (Iznik)

Nicholas attended the first Ecumenical Council in AD 325

Bishops with Constantine
Council of Nicaea, original icon from Crete
Icon print: St Nicholas Center Collection
Detail map Nicaea
Click for larger map

One of Alexander the Great's generals founded the city in 316 BC, naming it Antigonela for himself. When taken by another general, it was named Nicaea for his wife. Nicaea became an important religious center following Constantine's edit of tolerance for Christianity in AD 313. The city has been important in the Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk, and Ottoman empires

Located on the eastern shore of Lake Iznik, the city has long been a stopping place on the route between Constantinople and Anatolia. The area surrounding Nicaea is fertile with rich agriculture.

When controversy arose about the nature of Jesus Christ, Constantine called the first Ecumenical Council to Nicaea in AD 325 to settle the issue. All the bishops came, meeting for two months in the Senatus Palace, now submerged in Lake Iznik. The council affirmed Christ's divinity and established what is now known as the Nicene Creed. Nicaea hosted another Ecumenical Council in 787, that rejected iconoclasm, thus permitting the use of icons in worship. This second Nicaean council met in Hagia Sophia.

In 1075 the Seljuk commander Süleyman Sah I changed Nicaea's name to Iznik and made it his capital. Through the years, particularly in the 16th and 17th centuries, Iznik has been renown for tiles and ceramics that have greatly influenced decoration in mosques and palaces throughout Turkey. Described as the third 'holy city' after Jerusalem and the Vatican, the Second Vatican Council in 1962, declared Iznik a 'holy city' for Christians.

Where Was Nicholas (During the Council)?
Bishop Nicholas Loses His Cool (At the Council of Nicaea)

Roman Wall
City wall around Nicaea
Photo: Roberto Piperno
The Walls of Nicaea
Used by permission
Nicean city walls
A section of the 5 miles of Roman walls still surrounding Nicaea
Ataman Hotel
Used by permission
Southern city gate
Southern gate; trimphal arches were incorporated when the walls were built
Photo: Roberto Piperno
The Walls of Nicaea
Used by permission
Northern gate
Northern city gate, 3 of the 4 gates survive, restricted to pedestrians
Photo: David Trobisch
Trip to Turkey
Used by permission
Roman aqueduct
Roman aqueducts used until the 1970s, this one is outside eastern gate
Photo: Roberto Piperno
The Walls of Nicaea
Used by permission
Ancient building
Ruins of the ancient Hagia Sophia, where the First Ecumenical Council met in Iznik
Photo: David Trobisch
Trip to Turkey
Used by permission
The theatre was supported by arches as the land was flat; note entrance for beasts
Photo: David Trobisch, Trip to Turkey
Used by permission

 More information

coverSaint Nicholas Bishop of Myra: The Life and Times of the Original Father Christmas by D. L. Cann, Novalis/Twenty-Third Publications, 2002
Describes the culture and places of the Graeco-Roman Empire that was home to St Nicholas
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